We recently connected with Anirudh Kulkarni, BS ’86, MS ’88, the CEO of CVP, to learn about his professional journey and GW SEAS experience.
SEAS: Can you tell us what you are doing now and why it matters to you?
AK: I am currently the Chief Executive Officer of CVP (Customer Value Partners), an award-winning mid-sized HealthTech and government services firm based in the DC metropolitan area with operations across the country. We solve big problems in healthcare transformation, research and evaluation, digital transformation, data science and cybersecurity. Our mission is to help organizations achieve lasting transformation and build a healthy, safe, and equitable world.
Our mission matters to us. To make a lasting impact on matters that affect the country’s national interest. Our culture matters to us. To create an environment where talented people can apply their passion and expertise to our clients’ challenges. Building innovative solutions matters to us. To create digital strategies that leverage NextGen thinking in machine learning, cloud, virtual and augmented reality and advanced cybersecurity engineering, which create an exciting environment for our people.
SEAS: What drew you to the School of Engineering and Applied Science and GW?
AK: It was a pretty simple decision actually. I had applied to two schools out of high school (Sugarloaf Senior High in Campbellton, New Brunswick – go Bruins!) – McGill for Pre-Med and (at the direction of my physician father) GW Engineering as I had an aunt who lived in Silver Spring and Georgetown did not have an Engineering School(!). When I got into both, my father rather strongly suggested that medicine was not going to be an appropriate career for me given my temperament and since I had been given a very generous scholarship at GW – that’s where I ended up.
SEAS: How did GW and SEAS influence your professional choices and successes?
AK: I got very excited by a new major being conceived when I was a freshman. I was one of six that graduated with an undergraduate major in Operations Research and Computational Science. As a math nerd, I loved the “applied math” angle of OR. That drove me to work in simulation and modeling which took me to my first job out of college with TRW Space and Defense.
SEAS: Are there particular classes or professors who stand out in your mind? Who helped you on your career path?
AK: All of our classes were taught by terrific professors but I have to say, the standout class was Introduction to Operations Research, taught by Professor Richard Soland, who was also my advisor. He made the concepts and math behind OR so easy to understand. Trust me, it wasn’t an easy course. At the time, all the OR courses for undergraduates were actually graduate level classes. Somehow, he made it all seem easy. Best teacher I ever had! That department eventually morphed into today’s Engineering Management and Systems Engineering program.
SEAS: What is a positive memory or learning experience you had at SEAS?
AK: I think the most permanent learning was to train the mind to think like an engineer. By which I mean, to think about interconnections (“systems thinking”) and how pieces fit into a whole. This requires both analytical thinking but also creative thinking to solve problems in new ways given the constraints that are always inherent in any problem-solving model.
SEAS: How has SEAS prepared you for your current role?
AK: I guess mostly it helped to provide a background in structured problem solving – something that I have carried in every role I’ve had after school. To frame a solution hypothesis, to use data to prove or disprove, and then go execute.
Additionally, I was fortunate to be elected President of the Tau Beta Pi chapter at SEAS which really kindled my interest in leadership. That year was the 100th anniversary of the national honors society so we got to go to Lehigh University – where the society was first founded in 1885. Lee Iacocca – Chairman and CEO of Chrysler (and an engineer) was the keynote speaker who really inspired us all.
SEAS: What advice do you have for aspiring engineers currently at SEAS?
AK: Remember the people dimension of engineering and technology change. It’s easy to get enamored of the “shiny object syndrome.” But to transform the world with that shiny object, you have to understand the people side of the equation – how do you overcome their natural resistance to change? That’s one reason I’ve sponsored the CVP Speaker Series at GW on Change Innovation – to bring in real practitioners in the STEM areas to campus and have honest discussions about how they deal with technology change.
SEAS: What motivates you to consistently make gifts back to the SEAS?
AK: I have been very fortunate in life. For that I thank my parents who put me on the right path, my mentors who guided me, and my education that gave me the skills to perform. SEAS was instrumental in giving me the core skills to start my career path. If I can help be a part of facilitating the career of the next great engineering talent or corporate leader, that would be a great privilege!